UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Extension has named six assistant directors to oversee statewide educational programs addressing a variety of subject-matter areas of importance to Pennsylvania.
A seventh assistant director position will be filled in the near future. The appointments are part of recently announced changes to the organization's structure, product development and program delivery.
The restructuring created seven extension units aligned with the College of Agricultural Sciences' areas of excellence and research strengths. All county-based extension educators will be part of one of these units. Teams consisting of educators from these units and faculty specialists from the college's academic departments will address agricultural, natural-resource and community needs at the local and statewide levels.
The seven assistant directors of programs will guide these statewide teams in the development of high-quality educational products and services. They will help direct their teams' expertise to ensure the implementation of programs and the creation of supporting materials designed to help people make sound, science-based decisions.
Following are the seven newly formed extension units and the assistant directors who lead them:
--Agronomy and Natural Resources: Chris Houser. The interim assistant director of field and forage crops and natural resources programs from 2015 to 2017, Houser began his Penn State career in 2005 as a research technologist in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. In 2013, he became a county-based field-crop extension educator, developing and delivering educational programming and performing on-farm research trials. Prior to joining Penn State, Houser managed his family's farm, Houserdale Farm, for 18 years. He earned a bachelor's degree from Lock Haven University and a master's degree in agronomy from Penn State.
--Animal Systems: To be announced. This position is currently held by Chester Hughes, who will retire on June 30.
--Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Economic and Community Development: James Ladlee. Beginning in 2015, Ladlee held this position on an interim basis, overseeing the development and administration of agricultural economic development, shale energy and community development programming. From 1991 to 2015, he served Penn State Extension as an educator, county extension director, and associate director of the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. Since 2013, he also has been a key member of a national leadership team for the TOPCORP project, which has provided training to regulators and policymakers in 26 states and 17 countries. Ladlee earned bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural and extension education from Penn State.
--Food, Families, and Health: Katherine Cason. A professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Cason earned a bachelor's degree from Penn State, a master's from Texas Woman's University and a doctorate from Virginia Tech, all in human nutrition. From 1987 until 1999, she held faculty and extension positions in foods and nutrition at Virginia Tech and at Clemson University. She then spent three years on the faculty at Penn State before returning to Clemson in 2003 as a professor and director of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, SNAP-Ed, and the Healthy Living Center. She also has experience as a Veterans Administration clinical dietitian; a Women, Infants, and Children Program nutritionist; and an institutional food service director.
--Food Safety and Quality: Catherine Cutter. A professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Cutter has overseen Penn State Extension food safety and quality programs since 2015. She joined the Penn State faculty as assistant professor and food safety extension specialist for muscle foods in 1999, rising to the rank of full professor in 2013. Previously, she was a microbiologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Clay Center, Nebraska. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in pathobiology from the University of Connecticut and a doctorate in food technology from Clemson University.
--4-H Youth Development: Joshua Rice. Rice comes to Penn State from the University of Minnesota, where he was an assistant extension professor in the Extension Center for Youth Development. There, he provided leadership for the Minnesota 4-H Science of Agriculture initiative and helped to create and implement three other new 4-H programs. Previously, he was an agriculture education teacher at Southern High School in Harwood, Maryland. He holds a bachelor's degree in animal and veterinary sciences, a master's in agriculture, forestry and consumer sciences, and a doctorate in resource management and sustainable development, all from West Virginia University.
--Horticulture: Michael Masiuk. Masiuk has led Penn State Extension's statewide horticulture programs since 2012. After working in the tree-fruit and nursery industries, he joined Penn State in 1982 as an assistant extension educator in horticulture, rising to the rank of senior educator in 1995. From 2008 to 2012, he was county extension director in Allegheny County, where he directed all facets of extension programming in a metro area of 2.3 million people. A doctoral candidate in agricultural and extension education at Penn State, he holds a bachelor's degree in horticulture from Oregon State University and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state and county governments, Penn State Extension shares unbiased, research-based information with individuals, families, businesses and communities through nonformal educational programs designed to meet locally identified needs.